Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

I have just joined a Foucault Discussion Group in which we are going to read and discuss, aided by the joys of Google Groups, Foucault’s 1983 Lectures. Entitled The Government of Self And Others, this collection is particularly poignant to me because it represents some of Foucault’s last public work before he died in 1984. The original transcripts are owned by his ‘widow’, Daniel Defert. I still can’t quite get my head round what it must have been like, what it still is like (Defert is now  75) to have been the lover and life partner of such a man as Michel Foucault.
Even a casual observer can’t help but convey some of the electrifying moments when seeing Foucault, Live! Journalist Gerard Petitjean wrote in 1975: 

‘When Foucault enters the amphitheater, brisk and dynamic like<

someone who plunges into the water, he steps over bodies to

reach his chair, pushes away the cassette recorders so he can put

down his papers, removes his jacket, lights a lamp and sets off at

full speed. His voice is strong and effective, amplified by the

loudspeakers that are the only concession to modernism in a hall

that is barely lit by light spread from stucco bowls. The hall has

three hundred places and there are five hundred people packed

together, filling the smallest free space . . . There is no oratorical

effect. It is clear and terribly effective. There is absolutely no

concession to improvisation. Foucault has twelve hours each year

to explain in a public course the direction taken by his research

in the year just ended. So everything is concentrated and he fills

the margins like correspondents who have too much to say for the

space available to them. At 19.15 Foucault stops. The students

rush towards his desk; not to speak to him, but to stop their cassette

recorders. There are no questions. In the pushing and shoving

Foucault is alone. Foucault remarks: “It should be possible to

discuss what I have put forward. Sometimes, when it has not

been a good lecture, it would need very little, just one question,

to put everything straight. However, this question never comes.

The group effect in France makes any genuine discussion

impossible. And as there is no feedback, the course is theatricalized.

My relationship with the people there is like that of an actor

or an acrobat. And when I have finished speaking, a sensation of

total solitude . . .’

– Gérard Petitjean, “Les Grands Prêtres de l’université française,” Le Nouvel Observateur

1983 and 1975 are a long time ago now.   When Foucault was giving his last lectures before his death, I was too busy trying on ra-ra skirts and buying Howard Jones records to notice. But since I first read Foucault in the early 1990s, I have been quite overwhelmed by the clarity and incisive force of his ‘voice’.  So I strongly disagree with philosopher John Searle, who, like many, describes Foucault’s writing style as ‘obtuse’:


‘Philosopher John Searle once asked Foucault why his writing was so obtuse when he was easily understandable in conversation. Foucault told Searle that 25% of one’s writing needs to be incomprehensible nonsense to be taken seriously by French philosophers.’

I think these lectures show that actually Foucault’s speaking and writing styles were quite similar, and his urgency to illuminate and interact with his audience/readers was as strong in both arenas. Beginning to read the transcripts I am already reminded of Freud, and how it is quite easy to switch between his written work and representations of his speeches/lectures. I am also pleased to see that whilst I’ve struggled to find in Michel’s oeuvre, any direct challenge to or description of the function of ‘power’ in academia, the comments on Foucault’s lectures do show he had some issues with the conventions of the university, and the problems of actually having a dialogue between lecturers and students. If I’d been there I have no doubt I’d have been one of the keen young things arranging to meet Michel for coffee off campus to get down to discussing the nitty gritty of his ideas.

The journalist who wrote the evocative passage above called his article ‘Les Grands Pretres de l’universite francaise’ – The High Priests of The University of France. Now I am a critic of the ‘Great Men Theory’ of history which holds up individuals as demigods. But as my novella Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls reveals, I am guilty of embodying it too.

At the risk of completely going into religious mode, a radio four programme last night called  The Voice Of God also seems relevant here.  Participants in the show talk about how, despite all the texts and rituals people use to ‘find God’, the voice of God is actually pretty difficult to hear. In order to get the full benefit of God’s message, you have to put yourself somewhere very quiet and still, you have to meditate and open yourself up to what He might want to say to you.

And it’s the same with Foucault – for me, at least. I think there’s an interesting dissonance between how his work is all about the ‘modern’ (or postmodern, or post-postmodern) age, with its institutions, discourse, power relations and ‘noise’, but the only way to really ‘get it’ is to sit back and stop, to read, to listen, to think.

That’s what I’m going to be doing over the next few weeks. But as my long suffering readers/friends know, I might find it hard to keep my meditations to myself!

I first knew of Caroline Hagood as a journalist and blogger, who came up with some rather  intersting angles on metrosexuality. I enjoyed her non-fiction prose, and especially her blog, aptly entitled (but sadly no longer with us) ‘Culture Sandwich’. I featured her work on my blog and admired from afar her seemingly effortless mixing of styles, genres and forms (she is also an enthusiastic photographer).

But whatever she was creating, a poetic stream always ran through her work. Individual examples of  her poetry have been published in various places, but I am delighted that she has now brought out a whole collection of poems. Lunatic Speaks is a very confident, and vibrant debut, from what is obviously a talented poet.

The book begins with a kind of poem ‘foreword’ . ‘Rewriting Red’ is an incantation, a poet’s manifesto, that lays down Hagood’s ‘Lunatic’ gauntlet.

‘Red is that place beneath my skin that knows
What I really am, the anger I stuffed in a shoebox
Under my bed’

As all poets – and some wannabe poets like me – know, it is madness to reveal the inner workings of your mind and heart to strangers. But we do it anyway.  ‘Rewriting Red’ also reminds us of the crazy way poets treat language, as it runs through a list of things and words that have nothing in common but their colour, and the images they conjur up in our minds. The stop sign, bar room fights, ‘the rouged faces of alpha mandrills’, Chinese wedding dresses, raw hamburger meat, overcooked lobsters.

So as we read through the four sections of the book, we can’t say we weren’t advised of their contents. And yet, I still found myself surprised by some of the poems. As I read them in a rather unpoetic PDF format on my laptop on the train home from work, I am sure the other passengers noticed a lunatic chuckling and smiling and gasping alone to herself in their carriage.

There are some broad themes which reappear throughout Hagood’s work. And her poetry is no exception. One reason I am drawn to her writing must be her interest in gender, and the impossibility of us ever living up to its laws. Her poem ‘Becoming A Woman’ echoes some of my experiences and feelings about growing up into one ‘gender role’ whilst always furtively looking over my shoulder to another. Hagood didn’t become a woman she says, when she got her first period, or kissed a boy for the first time, those expected rites of passage into femininity, no

It was when you saw yourself
In a steam-cleared mirror and knew
You had a bit of danger in you.

And the young Hagood didn’t just look to her mother for tips on being the woman she now is, of course she also watched her father, shaving and doing ‘man’ things:

It wasn’t only boys
Who wanted a little shaver all their own
To understand their fathers through the removal
Of stubborn pieces of themselves they didn’t yet have.

This poem reminds me of ‘The Boy’ by Marilyn Hacker, another beautiful gender bending treatise on childhood.

Other poems dealing with gender in an unusual and arresting way include ‘What Lolita Wishes She Could Say’, ‘On Duty and Motherhood’, ‘Gender Studies’ and ‘All About My Mother’.

As ‘Rewriting Red’ hints at from the start, one aspect of Hagood’s ‘lunacy’ is her attraction to the surreal and the ridiculous. Whether she is channelling ‘Andy Warhol With A Ukelele’ or writing her ‘Inner David Lynch Movie’ the poet is always playing with language, mining her subconscious and, whether it is deliberate or not, making the reader laugh. And yet even at her silliest she manages to make some quite profound philosophical points. Take ‘A Poem About Poop’ for example, where Hagood asks

Why do we always talk weather?
I want to talk bowel movements,
Walk straight up to the next well-bred woman I see,
Ask her if she’s been regular lately,
Whether she works very hard for  the lone pellet

Or tingles with the fear of what will come
Soaring out of her next.

This is what really unites us.

Could that be the human condition summed up? However I found some of the ‘straight’, serious poems about love, lust and relationships the most moving, and devoid of the cynicism that creeps into many poems on this thorny topic. But I will leave you to discover ‘Word Pornography’ and ‘The Truth About Marriage’ for yourselves.

An aspect of good poetry that I am always drawn to is ‘dissonance’. A sense of unease as you realise that things aren’t always what they seem, and that contradictions are what makes life interesting. A key element of ‘dissonance’ in Hagood’s poetry, I think, is her honest portrayal of a woman who on one hand seems pretty ‘together’ and stable, but who has another, more chaotic, disturbing side to her. She is married, but she thinks about poop, she does jury service like a good citizen, but is kept awake at night by the demons in her mind. She writes quite controlled, structured verse, but splices it with crazy metaphors and dadaist jokes. I probably identify with this dissonance myself.

In looking at the process of writing, though, Hagood reveals something that separates her from me, and possibly a ‘dissonance’ in most writers.  For she sees herself as a writer ‘Failing At Fiction’ : ‘my mind’s motor/runs only in miniature’. Whereas I am very much failing at poetry these days, but have managed to write and finish some works of fiction. This feeling of ‘failure’ and inability to express ourselves fully is probably what spurs many of us ‘lunatic’ writers on.

But ‘failure’ is not something that Hagood needs to worry about as a poet at least. Lunatic Speaks is a (warning?) sign of much more spectacular lunacy to come. Going back to ‘Rewriting Red’, that poem encapsulates the strongest message I took away from Hagood’s book:

Do not turn away

When the shucked mess gapes at you

Ask for its skin back. Speak.

You can buy Lunatic Speaks in paperback from Amazon. I am going to do that now! It is published by Futurecylce Press, Georgia USA (2012).

In my last post I talked about the impact that [redacted] and [redacted]  has had on me, especially in relation to me finally abandoning feminism as a dogma. I wrote the post after seeing a recent review of Male Impersonators. The author could not publish her piece without making some snide remarks about me and my newfound ‘anti-feminism’ that I had explained in [redacted].

Interestingly someone else, a man, also read my review but had a very different reaction. He found my story of the influence of feminism on my life, and my eventual rejection of it, moving. He mentioned me in this post here:

He also mentioned another non-feminist blogger Girlwriteswhat. He described some of the abuse she has suffered online lately, due to her stance that goes against the feminist grain. He pointed out the irony of feminists punishing women for thinking for themselves and being independent!

Then today I read a piece by Ally Fogg in the New Statesman, pointing out to feminist journalists who have misrepresented a book about men, that it is not necessarily anti-feminist to acknowledge men are discriminated against as well as women.

I thought it was interesting that Ally, who is generally sympathetic to contemporary ‘third wave’ feminism, was well-received by feminists such as Suzanne Moore, even though he had criticised them directly in his article. Whereas women writers such as me and Girlwriteswhat have been subject to what actually amounts to a  witch hunt  by our ‘sisters.’

The reasons for this discrepancy in reactions are complex. One is, I think, that Ally Fogg has won his feminist stripes, for generally being supportive of the movement. On Guardian cif website he has on more than one occasion come into the comments in defence of a poor hapless feminist journalist against the criticism she is getting below the line from mainly men readers.

Whereas Girlwriteswhat and I have specifically identified feminism as the problem when it comes to gender wars. Or at least one major problem amongst a few. And we have identified the misandry inherent in feminist dogma, that is supposedly the ‘acceptable prejudice’.

Ally Fogg kept the feminists on side by saying Men’s Rights Activists display more misogyny than feminists display misandry. But he does not back up his claim with evidence. In the light of the forthcoming #radfem2012 conference which is not only misandry-fuelled but also transphobic, the work of Mark Simpson that points out how misandry goes unchecked in our culture, and the way ‘pro-men’ women such as me and Girlwriteswhat are treated by feminism,  I think Ally is wrong.

h/t redpesto

I read [redacted]  rather late. Too late in some ways. The havoc it might have caused had I read it during my undergraduate or postgraduate studies, and my following career in gender departments in British universities did not come to pass. But it still caused some havoc. And for that I shall remain forever grateful.

To cut a long story very short, [redacted] changed the way I think, and the way I look at the world. It enabled me, along with some other factors, to finally let go of the feminist dogma that I’d been attached to for my whole life (40 years of it). From a ‘Freudian’ perspective then, it is no wonder that I have become so [redacted].

I conveyed my enthusiasm for [redacted]

And, finally [redacted]

‘Okay, so this is what I want: I want, when someone changes their mind about something, for them not to go ideologically swinging to the far other side. I was reading some reviews of [redacted] and there are some of former feminists writing about it. And when I say “former” I mean “anti.” We’re talking PhDs in women’s studies who have suddenly realized men are people, too, and they are also oppressed by our patriarchal structure, and so that means we have to wipe out decades of feminist thought, because obviously the two cannot coexist.

Someone can explain to me why this is later, I have tickets to the opera tonight and I have a feeling it’s going to take a while.’

Well I’d hate to interrupt anyone’s relationship with the opera, darling, but I can answer that question in one sentence. In an email to this poor confused opera-goer I replied:

‘That is easy. It is because feminism is fuelled by misandry and a need to present men as the oppressors of women.’

But this isn’t about me (NO REALLY) this is about [redacted] The review that appeared recently at The Smart Set blog was a joint review of a few books on masculinity. It reads:

‘I’ve been reading books about masculinity, the authors trying to challenge what we think of as normal. Boyhoods, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, and [redacted]. All three writers are queer. When I tried to find a book that challenged society’s ideas of masculinity that was written by a straight man, all I could find was a book defending men’s needs to cheat on their wives.I did find a used copy of a book called Under Saturn’s Shadow: The Wounding and Healing of Men, which did not meet my expectation, didn’t so much challenge traditional forms of masculinity as psychoanalyze some problems men might have with women. But I kept reading it anyway, because the person who had it before me did some heartbreaking underlining. Next to the underlined passage “Out of their rage they wound others, and out of their sorrow and shame they grow more and more distant from each other,” there are two exclamation marks. Next to “A man’s experience of the primal relationship may have been so painful that he expects all relationships can only be painful. Thus his life is a dreary cycle of fearing domination by others and seeking to exploit them instead,” there is a star. “Many men are full of rage against women, and often they act it out” is underlined twice.I wonder about the man who read this book before me. I wonder what he got out of being told, “Men’s lives are as much governed by restrictive role expectations as are the lives of women.” I wonder what he then did with that information. Because it seems like the kind of book that would be read by one of the men in the 1994 essay collection [redacted]. In it, [redacted] sits down at one point with Alan, a man who appears in a documentary from the ’90s called Sex Hunters. He’s one of a group of young men profiled in the film who decided to spend their summers living together in a sort of boy commune. They live in a caravan, drinking and carrying on, and they have a contest for who can sleep with the most women. Each sex act is one point. 

Under Saturn’s Shadow is saying something true about the expectations put on men. But the previous owner did a lot of underlining about the betrayals of mothers and the absences of fathers, and not a whole lot in the sections where the author advises men to commune with their inner femininity and give it expression. Alan, in the documentary, complains about the duties of masculinity — the providing, the sacrifice, the achieving, the marriage and fathering of children. He has decided life should be more fun, that men should have other options. If you start spending some time on the websites of men’s advocacy groups, things can quickly turn anti-women, with men calling their ex-wives bitches, railing against women’s cold hearted natures, ranting about how “the system” is stacked against them and in favor of women. Simpson says to Alan, “Many all-male communities that get together and talk about common interests, activities — whether that’s fucking or surfing — is based on a kind of exaltation, a kind of worship, of the masculine and a denigration of the feminine, whether that’s the feminine embodied in women, or whether that’s the feminine embodied in so-called ‘effeminate’ men, men who, either in terms of where they put their dicks or how they dress or cut their hair, don’t conform to that masculine ideal.”’

This passage illustrates to me exactly why feminism cannot coexist with a love for men. And it illustrates why Male Impersonators, in my grubby hands, was such a dangerous book. Because it taught me that to actually be interested in men, in how culture has produced them, and how they resist or embrace or transform their ‘masculinity’, to actually want to hear men speak with their own voices, is to ‘offend’ feminism. To threaten it so much that it has to assert its own reason for existing, in an article that is ostensibly about men and books about masculinity. These lines from the review are chilling to me:

I wonder about the man who read this book before me. I wonder what he got out of being told, “Men’s lives are as much governed by restrictive role expectations as are the lives of women.” I wonder what he then did with that information.

The author seems to be saying that men can’t be trusted to read!

In feminism the notion of consciousness raising has been prominent for decades. Based on a Marxist model of ‘false consciousness’, feminists since the 70s (probably earlier) have been encouraging women to get together and to read feminist tracts, to open their eyes and to free them from the grip of patriarchy’s lies.

But men are not supposed to raise their consciousness. Unless it involves swallowing hook line and sinker the ‘consciousness’ of feminist women. They are supposed to shut up and listen.

[redacted] ‘raised my consciousness’ to the point that I abandoned feminism altogether.So I am not surprised that a feminist reviewer reading my take on Simpson’s work, nearly missed her date with the opera to huff and puff about my audacious cheek.

And look what I have done with [redacted]! Well, my dear feminist/gayist middle class liberal establishment, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

This is another version of my review of  Mark McCormack s new book on Declining Homophobia.


The Declining Significance of Homophobia, by Mark McCormack, is, according to its author, a ‘good news story’. The good news being that homophobia amongst young people is on the wane. His research with mainly young men students in three English sixth forms reaches very different conclusions to that of the more sobering surveys by LGBT organisations such as Stonewall.

The argument McCormack makes is clear:  in line with Eric Anderson (2009)’s theories of ‘softening’ masculinities, McCormack tells us that the young people he studied do not marginalize and discriminate against each other on the basis of sexual orientation, or even perceived orientation. This is because homophobia has declined in our culture, since the ‘homohysteria’ that characterised the 1980s and 1990s. He also looks at language, and argues convincingly that in many contexts, young people’s use of the term ‘gay’ to mean ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’ is not homophobic, but merely a sign of changing times, and linguistic shifts.

I agree with McCormack that attitudes are changing and expanding, to accommodate a more accepting approach, both towards homosexuality, and towards ‘feminine’ behaviours amongst men, (think David Beckham in a sarong, or Alex Reid in women’s lingerie). However I have a few problems with his reasoning, and with the identity politics he uses to explain and celebrate this change.

One weakness of the book is a lack of depth of understanding on the part of McCormack about the history of homophobia. He relies almost solely on the work of his ‘mentor’ Eric Anderson to explain how homophobic attitudes gripped the (western) world during the 1980s and 1990s, when AIDS was seen by many as a ‘gay plague’. And when the age of consent was higher for homosexual men than for heterosexuals. Other writers who are missing from McCormack’s book who have carefully examined the recent history of homophobia, include Mark Simpson (Anti- Gay 1996), David Halperin (How To Do The History of Homosexuality, 2004), Steven Zeeland (Barrack Buddies 1993) and Keith Boykin (Beyond The Down Low 2005).

Whilst the end of the 20th century was indeed a bleak time in many ways for sexual freedom, in others it was positive. ‘Gay culture’ went mainstream in the 80s and 90s, with bands such as The Smiths, Culture Club, The Pet Shop Boys and Erasure topping the charts. Fashion and advertising began to exploit the ‘pink pound’, with models such as Marky Mark showing off their ‘assets’ to gay consumers. And even the awful reality of AIDS itself led to increasing visibility of LGBT people. When Princess Diana was filmed shaking hands and chatting to people who had the AIDS virus in 1989, for example, her status as a ‘gay icon’ was confirmed. And her high profile role changed some hearts and minds about homosexuality.

I think McCormack  is also wrong to focus as heavily as he does on ‘gay’ identities and ‘gay rights’ politics. One thing I remember most fondly about the 90s was the explosion of debate and activism around the concept of queer. Both in academic circles, with the ground-breaking work of writers such as Butler , Simpson and Paglia, and in everyday life, the politics of ‘gay’ expanded and diversified into the politics of ‘queer’, enabling many people who were marginalised on the grounds of gender and sexuality, to be included in the conversation. But McCormack is very dismissive of this ‘queer turn’, and in particular of writers such as Judith Butler who he describes as ‘elitist’ and ‘obscure’. He  reverts to the use of ‘gay’ identity politics and ‘gay’ terminology to describe and represent all LGBT people. One problem with this is that, as Simpson and colleagues wrote in their controversial book Anti-Gay (1996), the ‘gay’ identity itself has contributed to the erasure of other marginalised sexual identities such as bisexuality.

I have one final criticism of McCormack’s book, which extends to a general criticism of masculinities theory overall – it relates to what could be seen as an unmentioned, unacceptable great big pink ‘elephant in the room’. The elephant’s name? Metrosexuality. I think McCormack’s  thesis and research would be improved immensely by giving serious consideration to this ‘21st century’ phenomenon, of men expressing their ‘desire to be desired’ via consumer and media culture. According to Mark Simpson, originator and key theorist of the concept of metrosexuality,

‘Con­trary to what you have been told, met­ro­sex­u­al­ity is not about flip-flops and facials, man-bags or man­scara. Or about men becom­ing ‘girlie’ or ‘gay’.  It’s about men becom­ing every­thing. To themselves. In much the way that women have been for some time. It’s the end of the sex­ual divi­sion of bath­room and bed­room labour.  It’s the end of sex­u­al­ity as we’ve known it.’ (Simpson 2011)

It does not make sense to me, that a world in which the oppressive and repressive phenomenon of homophobia is declining and even disappearing, would also be a world in which sexual identity categories such as ‘gay’ remain unchanged. The ‘end of sexuality as we’ve known it’ is a difficult concept to grasp, especially for those of us who have been discriminated against because of our sexuality, and who consider it a key aspect of our identities. But I think it is on the horizon. For, to quote one of my favourite homos ever, Christopher Isherwood, ‘we’re all queer in the end’.

The Declining Significance Of Homophobia by Mark McCormack (2012)



The 52 Seductions manages to take a clever, but simple idea, and turn it into a compelling, moving – and very funny – story. Betty Herbert came up with the premise of the book, when her marriage, though happy in the main, was stagnating sexually. She decided to convince her husband that all they needed was to carry out a different ‘seduction’ every week for a year, taking it in turns to come up with the erotic inspiration.

If this sounds a bit Ann Summers to you, well in a way it is. But Betty’s dry, slightly cynical approach to the ‘spice up your marriage’ industry means that she is able to laugh at herself, and her attempts to, er, spice up her marriage. So after a night of passion on a bed strewn with rose petals, she does not fail to mention that her cleaner leaves a strategically placed petal on her bedroom windowsill the next day. And when, plagued by pain and inexplicable vaginal bleeding, her favourite position ‘the reverse cowgirl’ leads to a Carrie-type scene of carnage, the reader is encouraged to laugh, as well as sympathise.

The 52 Seductions works because it crosses genres, moods and styles. It could be read at face value, as a set of sex tips for struggling couples. It is also an honest account of a relationship that began when the two lovers were very young, and has continued despite – or because of – the obstacles. And, it is a set of reflections about being a woman, ageing, marriage, work, feminism and sex. And, if you like your porn realistic and scattered with humour (and rose petals) it is actually quite horny in places.

The ‘feminism’ that informs the book was the only part I didn’t love. I am happy to read books by and about feminist women, but I felt at times that Betty was assuming all women, like her, are feminist. And occasionally she would make generalisations about ‘women’ and ‘men’ in relation to sexual appetites, and emotions, that did not ring true with me. There was a bit in the book that I found very familiar, where the couple were having a meal in a pub on holiday, and all their sadness and communication difficulties came to the fore. But I related far more to how she described her husband in that situation. In my relationship my partner was the ‘emotional’ ‘talkative’ one and I was prone to silences and sulks.

Overall The 52 Seductions is brilliant, brave, ingenious and at times hilarious. I had trouble putting it down, and am bound to read it again. My favourite bits are the seductions themselves. This is an extract from ‘Call Centres’ where the intrepid duo try phone sex – using a professional phone sex line.

‘ ‘Hello? Oh, hello, Erica. . . My name’s Herbert . . . I’m thirty-eight . . . You’re thirty? What colour hair do you have?’

 What? I think, Why is that relevant? She’ll be blonde, I guarantee it.

‘Erica,’ he says, ‘I’ve got a naughty confession to make.’ I glance up at him, hoping he will catch my eye and smirk, but it appears that he’s saying this with no irony whatsoever. ‘My wife is with me. She’s sucking my cock.’

 Oh yuck, I think. I suppose I couldn’t expect him not to tell her, but now I am wondering what on earth Erica thinks of me. It brings to mind the wife of the vile man in There’s Something About Mary, who merrily fellates her husband while he watches the football.’

If you want to know how that scene climaxes, you will have to read the book. I promise it won’t let you down.


You can buy The 52 Seductions at Amazon

Check out Betty’s Blog for more seductive words!

‘The entire gay male community seems at times to be colluding against the possibility of independent thinking. The gay rights movement, too often, is focused on theatrics rather than on discourse; we want to be entertained and flattered, not criticised’. – John Weir

I was delighted to have a book review published today, at Sociological Imagination website. I sent it to my Dad (a sign I must be proud) and he responded with a lecture about the origins of the site’s name, coming as it does from the title of a book by renowned (long dead) sociologist, C Wright Mills.   ‘The Sociological Imagination’ reminds us that when we conduct social research, and produce social theory, it is not a totally dry, intellectual affair. It involves our imaginations and our hearts.

My review is of a book by Dr Mark McCormack  (@_MarkMcCormack on twitter) about declining homophobia amongst young people. But, due to events that have been mentioned a lot surrounding my recent ‘outing’ by Paul Burston and Julie Bindel, he felt justified in demanding my review be taken down from the site.

Thankfully, and to the credit of the editors, it wasn’t. The editors instead left an editorial note explaining (using only my detractors’ perspectives but dems the breaks) the context of me and my article.

The only people who commented under my piece were Mark McCormack the author of the book I reviewed, Grant Peterson (who posted under the name ‘UCLAScholar’), the husband of Eric Anderson whose work McCormack advocates, me and Matt Lodder  (@mattlodder). But most of my comments, and Matt’s one comment were not published.

So here is Matt’s comment in case any of you get as far as to read below the line!:

“I find astonishing that no-one is willing to engage with the careful, nuanced, referenced, footnoted, informed work Elly does on gender, sexuality and sexual politics. Instead, those who are the targets of her careful criticism resort to invective and insult, which leads her to lash out in response. It’s woeful, and depressing, that people are happy to cry foul rather than actually talk about the interesting and important issues laid out in this article and elsewhere.

If you read her blogs, and her body of work, it is abundantly clear that Elly is not homophobic or hateful in any way whatsoever. It is easy to categorise her as such by cherry-picking her (admittedly provocative) comments – her use of the term “gay” as a term of critique is (very loudly and repeatedly) informed by her pinning her ideas in the work of Mark Simpson’s book “Anti-Gay”, which is not a homophobic work (all the writers in it are gay, including Paul Burston himself), but one which critiques the identity politics of contemporary gay culture. The term “wanker”, as explained in the blog post to which Mr McCormack refers, is a reference to another blogpost by a feminist writer.

As for harrassment – Elly has been called all the names under the sun by high-powered journalists at the Guardian, the New Statesman, and others. People have contacted ex-business partners of hers, and “outed” her. All because she dared argue with them about the substance of their public, high-profile, powerfuilly platformed views with which she has a reasoned and reasonable dispute.

It’s all too easy to call her a troll. If she is substantively, academically wrong, UCALAScholar and Dr McCormack, let’s hear why. Despite all these accusations, let’s hear some reasonable, intelligent responses.

Is Elly rude? Sure. But she’s only rue to those who are rude to her first, or in whose work (particularly, say, Julie Bindel) she sees hateful, indefensible rhetoric.”

You can read an unedited version of my review here  

UPDATE: My review was taken down from the site in the end, due to the pressure from the academics involved – the author of the book and his colleagues.